Zoo owner arrested, exotic animals seized over cruelty charges
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2019 11:07AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2019 2:52PM EDT
Animal welfare officials have swooped down on a small central Quebec zoo, seizing lions, tigers and bears while charging the owner of the park with animal cruelty.
The Montreal branch of the SPCA said Tuesday that St-Edouard Zoo owner, Normand Trahan, faces two charges under the Criminal Code -- one count each of criminal animal neglect and criminal animal cruelty.
Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer and spokeswoman for the SPCA, said it's the first time that animal cruelty charges have been laid by way of indictment in the province. That means tougher potential sentences -- a maximum of five years behind bars and a lifetime ban on owning animals in the current case.
The charges stem from a visit in August 2018, when the SPCA said it noted several alleged violations.
In a subsequent visit in October, officials seized two alpacas that were in poor health and found four deceased animals, including two tigers.
According to charges filed in court in Trois-Rivieres, Que., the alleged infractions were alleged to have taken place between May 2016 and October 2018.
A clerk at the Trois-Rivieres courthouse said Trahan was released under several conditions and his case will return to court on June 21.
On Tuesday, officials began the complex task of removing the animals from the site -- a list that also includes zebras, primates, camels and kangaroos.
"Over the coming days, we'll start moving the animals that are seized to new facilities where they'll get the specialized care they require," Gaillard told a news conference in front of the zoo, about 120 kilometres east of Montreal.
She said SPCA officials were on site as of 7 a.m. conducting inventories. She said seizing all the roughly 100 animals could take several weeks.
No animals had been moved as of Tuesday afternoon, but a veterinarian was documenting the animal's living conditions and health status.
The zoo's 2019 season -- its 30th anniversary according to its website -- was slated to begin this Saturday.
Michel Lebrun, Trahan's lawyer, told reporters in Trois-Rivieres, Que., his client would need to verify what's going on with the property.
"We will take stock of all this and after that, we'll let you know our position," Lebrun said with Trahan by his side. "We prefer not to comment at the moment."